Barack Obama recognizes the importance for US and global security of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. His election opens the door to US leadership to achieve the goal of zero nuclear weapons.
He has promised: “I will make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of US nuclear policy.” He has also stated, “A world without nuclear weapons is profoundly in America’s interest and the world’s interest. It is our responsibility to make the commitment, and to do the hard work to make this vision a reality. That’s what I’ve done as a Senator and a candidate, and that’s what I’ll do as President.”
All of us on our planet share in this responsibility. It is a responsibility to ourselves, to each other, and to future generations.
The United States created and used nuclear weapons during World War II. They are the most powerful weapons ever created. A single nuclear weapon can destroy a city, as we know from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With today’s more powerful nuclear weapons, we can readily surmise that a few nuclear weapons could destroy a country, and a nuclear war could destroy civilization and threaten most life on the planet.
Nuclear weapons are now in the arsenals of nine countries: the US, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.
Humanity’s challenge is to control and eliminate these weapons globally. Nuclear weapons are illegal, immoral, impractical and costly. We must keep the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons clearly before us: Zero nuclear weapons. Zero is both the safest and most stable number of nuclear weapons. But how do we move from a world with 26,000 nuclear weapons to global zero?
We need to let the new US President know that Americans and people throughout the globe seek his leadership on this issue, reversing past US policy that has relied upon nuclear weapons and threatened their first use. We must call upon President-elect Obama to make his intentions known to the world, taking the following five steps to forge a path to a world free of nuclear weapons.
First, make an unambiguous commitment on behalf of the United States to global zero and seek this commitment from all other nuclear weapons states. This is the simplest and most direct of the five steps and can be accomplished in a major foreign policy address.
Second, pledge that the US government will deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons in military policy by taking the weapons off high alert status and by committing to No First Use of nuclear weapons, and seeking this commitment from all other nuclear weapons states. This will demonstrate to the world that the US commitment is more than mere rhetoric.
Third, negotiate with the Russians, as a matter of high priority, major reductions in nuclear arsenals. Reach an agreement to reduce our respective nuclear arsenals to under 1,000 nuclear weapons, deployed and in reserve, by the year 2010. This agreement will likely require the US to abandon its plans for deployment of its unworkable and provocative missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Fourth, launch a major global effort to assure control of all nuclear weapons and the fissile materials to construct new nuclear weapons. This will be necessary for gaining confidence that a nuclear weapons-free world is attainable, particularly as the current nuclear weapons states move to lower and lower levels.
Fifth, use the convening power of the United States to bring together the nine nuclear weapons states to negotiate a new treaty, a Nuclear Weapons Convention similar to the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons. When the existing nuclear weapons states have reached agreement, the Nuclear Weapons Convention should be opened for signature and ratification of all the world’s countries.
With strong US leadership, the kind that Barack Obama has pledged, a nuclear weapons-free world could be achieved by the year 2020, and this should be the goal of those seeking a more secure world. It still would be far from a perfect world, but it would be a great triumph for humanity. It would pave the way to building a more peaceful and secure future for all inhabitants of earth.